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Rehabilitation and closure plan for a uranium mining complex in Brazil

Paper from the Proceedings of Mine Closure Solutions 2014 conference held in Ouro Preto, Brazil, April 26-30, 2014. (downloadable PDF).

Authors: Antônio H. A. Freitas and Eduardo Chapadeiro, Golder Associates, Brazil; Roy Lopes, Golder Associates, Canada; Celso de O. Loureiro, Golder Associates, Brazil; Ron Barsi, Golder Associates, Canada; Rens Verburg and David Banton, Golder Associates, United States; Ernest Becker, Golder Associates, Canada; Heraldo Rangel Jr., Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil, Brazil

Published by InfoMine Inc. 2014.
ISBN: 978-0-9917905-4-8

Abstract

Unidade de Tratamento de Minério (UTM) Caldas is a uranium mining complex owned by Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil (INB) located near Poços de Caldas, in Minas Gerais state, that includes an open-pit mine, waste rock piles, a tailings dam, and a milling/processing plant. Uranium production was discontinued in 1995, and in 2009 work began on the development of a rehabilitation and closure plan for the complex, which will be the first uranium mine and processing plant to be decommissioned in Brazil. The main purpose of this plan was to identify, evaluate, and propose sustainable closure solutions to promote physical, chemical, and biological stabilization of the whole site, making it appropriate for future uses while considering acceptable risk levels. The main environmental issues at the site were found to be related to acid drainage from waste rock piles, which resulted in leaching of metals and radionuclides, with the potential to affect surrounding surface waters. The plan was completed at a conceptual level in 2011. As part of the plan’s development, a detailed assessment of hydrological, hydrogeological, geochemical, geotechnical, and radiological aspects was conducted. Hydrogeological modeling, along with a probabilistic model of the site, was used to study complex surface water and groundwater flows, contaminant transport, and radioactive interactions. This information was integrated in a risk-based decision-making approach to support selection of the most appropriate closure alternatives for the site. The risk assessment and modeling results indicated that the proposed alternative would result in acceptable risk levels for the selected scenarios for future use of the site area. The project was presented to the Brazilian environmental and nuclear agencies, as well as to the local communities. The plan has been well accepted and it is under analysis by the agencies.


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